To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, what steps she has taken to help ensure that UK visa offices in (a) China and (b) India process visa applications for students planning to study at UK universities in the academic year 2020-21; what estimate his Department has made of the number of days those offices have been closed since 28 March 2020; and what discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Education on ensuring that overseas student applications for the academic year 2020-21 are not disrupted by closure of those offices during the covid-19 outbreak; and if she will have discussions with the Home Secretary on prioritising visa applications of overseas students with travel, reception and quarantine arrangements in place.
2 July 2020
Visa applications are processed by UK Visas & Immigration in the Home Office. All visa applications for students planning to study in the UK are processed by the student immigration case working team based in the UK, this includes those submitted overseas and in the UK. Immigration case-working operations have been impacted by COVID-19, with most locations going into lockdown at the end of March although we have continued to make decisions where we have been able to.
Students, like other visa applicants, are required to attend a visa application centre (VAC) to provide documents and enrol their biometrics. VACs in China and India have been closed since January and March respectively, but as restrictions continue to be lifted by host governments, overseas VACs are reopening, enabling students to apply for the required visa to study in the UK. Our Visa Application Centres in China began to open on 2nd June 2020 and all centres currently have available appointments. Our Visa Application Centres in India will reopen from 6 July.
As centres reopen, details of these will be published on our commercial partner websites. Unless exemptions apply, all travellers to the UK are required to comply with the border health measures. UKVI operations and the Education sector are working closely to ensure that student applications are not impacted by earlier closures as a result of Covid-19.